CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – In a battle of the nation's top two teams and each other's biggest rivals, top-ranked North Carolina shut out No. 2 Duke Friday in an Atlantic Coast Conference field hockey battle at Karen Shelton Stadium. The Tar Heels stayed undefeated on the season, moving to 10-0 (3-0 ACC), while the Blue Devils fell to 8-2 (0-2).
"That was as close as you can get to a national championship in the regular season – one vs two, your crosstown rival," UNC coach Karen Shelton said. "It was an awesome performance by our team and a gritty win."
After a scoreless first quarter in which UNC outshot Duke 4-1, the Tar Heels broke through in the second period. Senior Marissa Creatore, a Carolina fan since moving to Chapel Hill in second grade and deciding then to root for UNC against Duke, scored the gamewinner in the 25th minute of play.
"It was a really unselfish pass to me, right in front of the goal," Creatore said. "It was kind of an open net. For a second I was like, 'Don't miss, you have a wide open goal!' That's what you live for, what you practice. It was an incredible sequence of passes that led to a goal."
She put the finishing touch on a play that started on the other end of the field and illustrated the Tar Heels' goals of teamwork and productive passing. Defender Romea Riccardo sent the ball up the right side to midfielder Feline Guenther, who passed it ahead to forward Catherine Hayden in the middle of the field.
Hayden sent it back to the right side and sophomore Hannah Griggs. Griggs carried the ball into the circle then, when Duke keeper Sammi Steele went out to challenge, sent the ball across to Creatore, who was sprinting into the circle. Creatore slapped it in to put the Tar Heels up 1-0.
"I thought the first goal was really important," Shelton said. "Hannah had a great assist to Reese [Creatore] in a fast-break counterattack. It was an awesome and important goal for us. And that's pretty cool when you can go from end to end like that."
After getting off just one shot in the third quarter, the Tar Heels got a second goal 57 seconds into the fourth quarter, on the second of back-to-back penalty corners.
Sophomore Erin Matson scored the goal, assisted by sophomore Abby Pitcairn on the insert and freshman Madison Orobono on the stop.
The shutout win was UNC's third in a row. The Tar Heels have allowed just eight goals all season and only two over their past seven games.
"I particularly like the way we defended, especially in the second half," Shelton said. "It was still a close game. We've been working on our individual defense and we were able to not give up too many penalty corners."
The Blue Devils drew three corners, two in the third quarter and one in the fourth. The Tar Heels finished with eight, including seven in the fourth quarter.
Junior goalkeeper Amanda Hendry, the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Week, made four saves. Orobono logged her second defensive save of the season to help keep Duke off the board.
The Tar Heels played in front of a crowd of more than 900 that filled the stands at Shelton Stadium. "We had a great Carolina crowd that helped us, there's no question," Shelton said. "It gives us energy. That's why you train so hard, to have these kinds of matchups in front of your home crowd."
Alas, the Tar Heels won't see their home crowd again for more than two weeks. Next up is a trip to New York for back-to-back games against Syracuse (Oct. 13) and Albany (Oct. 14). Then UNC plays at Wake Forest on Oct. 18 before finally returning to Chapel Hill to host Liberty on Oct. 20.